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State, Department of Public Safety & Corrections ex rel. Litton

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Second Circuit

November 15, 2017

STATE OF LOUISIANA DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY & CORRECTIONS IN THE MATTER OF BRIAN M. LITTON

         Twenty-S ixth Judicial District Court for the Parish of Bossier, Louisiana Trial Court No. 149075 Honorable Michael Owens Craig, Judge

          STATE OF LOUISIANA DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY AND CORRECTIONS, OFFICE OF MOTOR VEHICLES Stephen A. Quidd for Appellant

          WHITLEY R. GRAVES for Appellee Brian M. Litton

          Before BROWN, GARRETT, and STONE, JJ.

          STONE, J.

         The State of Louisiana, through the Department of Public Safety and Corrections, Office of Motor Vehicles, seeks review of the trial court's judgment reinstating Brian M. Litton's commercial driver's license. For the following reasons, we affirm.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On July 13, 2015, Brian M. Litton ("Litton") was arrested by Bossier Parish Sheriff's Deputy Tim Wooten ("Deputy Wooten") for operating a vehicle while intoxicated, first offense, in violation of La. R.S. 14:98.[1]Litton was transported to the Bossier Parish Maximum Security Facility and presented with the standard arrestee's rights form related to chemical tests for intoxication. In accordance with La. R.S. 32:661(C), the rights form is used to notify the arrestee of his or her constitutional right to refuse chemical testing and of the consequences of failing to submit to chemical testing, including but not limited to suspension of driving privileges. Litton subsequently signed the rights form.

         Thereafter, Deputy Wooten requested Litton submit to a chemical test using a breathalyzer machine, and Litton refused to submit to the test. At the time, Litton held a Class "A" commercial driver's license, which permitted him to operate all commercial and noncommercial vehicles within all classes. As a consequence of his refusal to submit to the chemical test, the State of Louisiana, through the Department of Public Safety and Corrections, Office of Motor Vehicles ("the Department"), disqualified Litton's commercial driver's license for one year. See La. R.S. 32:667(B)(2)(a) and La. R.S. 32:414.2(A)(4)(d).

         Pursuant to La. R.S. 32:667(A)(2), Litton requested an administrative hearing to challenge the suspension of his driving privileges. On December 30, 2015, the administrative law judge ("ALJ") found reasonable grounds existed for Deputy Wooten to suspect Litton was operating a vehicle while intoxicated. See La. R.S. 32:661(A)(2)(a). Resultantly, he affirmed the suspension of Litton's driving privileges for refusing to submit to the chemical test.

         On January 25, 2017, Litton filed a petition for judicial review of the ALJ's decision. See La. R.S. 32:668(C)(1). Following a trial de novo, the trial court rendered judgment reinstating Litton's commercial driver's license because Deputy Wooten was unable to remember if he read the entire rights form to Litton, a requirement under La. R.S. 32:661(C). The trial court relied on Litton's testimony that he was not advised of the provisions in the rights form related to the disqualification of his commercial driver's license. A final judgment was signed on February 21, 2017.[2] T he Department now appeals.

         DISCUSSION

         The Department argues the trial court erred in reinstating Litton's commercial driver's license. According to the Department, after Litton refused to submit to the chemical test, La. R.S. 32:414.2 required the disqualification of his commercial driver's license for a minimum of one year.

         In order to promote safety on Louisiana highways, the Louisiana Legislature enacted the implied consent law, La. R.S. 32:661 et seq., which addresses the testing of persons suspected of operating motor vehicles while under the influence of alcoholic beverages or controlled ...


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